The final phase of the Madison Metropolitan School District’s return to in-person learning is complete as of Thursday morning.
Hundreds of seventh-, eighth-, 10th- and 11th-graders entered their school buildings for the first time in 13 months, as the second cohorts for those four grades made their return.
MMSD began its return to in-person instruction on March 9 with kindergarten. First and second-graders joined them a week later, with 4-year-old kindergarten students returning for two full days each week March 23.
After spring break, the returns continued, with third-graders and those who opted in late for grades K-2 returning April 13, followed by fourth-, fifth-, sixth-, ninth- and 12th-graders April 20 and finally the last four grades.
Grades 6-12 students are split into cohorts, with half attending in-person Tuesday and Wednesday and the other half Thursday and Friday. Outside Toki Middle School Thursday morning, school staff and MMSD superintendent Carlton Jenkins greeted students.
“Welcome back! Do you know where you’re going?” was heard repeatedly, the excitement clear even with masks covering faces as staff directed students to the separate entrances for each grade, which helped ensure social distancing.
For a few buses that arrived, the staff out front outnumbered the students, with staff welcoming them and dancing to music provided by Tauri Robinson, a DJ and the director of the Meadowood Neighborhood Center.
According to district surveys, more than 16,000 students planned to return for in-person learning. Lower grades have the highest percentage of students returning, but even for high school seniors, 57% opted to return.
There will be one more group of students to return, as students in grades 6-12 have one more opt-in period, with any that choose to move from virtual instruction to in-person able to make that choice on a survey May 3-7 and return May 25. Students can switch from in-person back to virtual at any time.
Students are learning through concurrent instruction, with teachers teaching students online and in the classroom at the same time. For grades K-5, students are in-person Tuesday through Friday, while middle and high school students are limited to two days in-person per week, while they learn online for the others.
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